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Affirmance of Summary Judgment in Motor Vehicle Case

Bretton C. Albrecht and Caryn L. Bellus | March 16, 2018

Bretton C. Albrecht and Caryn L. Bellus, of the Miami office, obtained a Summary Judgment in a relatively low impact collision where Plaintiff was claiming serious injuries. Prior counsel unsuccessfully moved for Summary Judgment based on a pre-suit settlement. Once Kubicki Draper stepped in as defense counsel, Bretton and Caryn were asked to revaluate the Summary Judgment issues. They found that there were, in fact, additional grounds supporting the pre-suit settlement defense, and prepared a renewed supplemental Motion for Summary Judgment which Bretton argued in the Trial Court and prevailed in obtaining the defense Summary Judgment, and Plaintiff appealed.

In the trial court, Plaintiff’s arguments focused on asserting that additional affidavits were required from Defendants as a condition of the settlement. As an apparent afterthought, Plaintiff also argued that she did not authorize her attorney to make the offer without requiring additional affidavits as a term of the offer. In contrast, in the appeal, Plaintiff’s arguments focused almost exclusively on the lack of authority issue, likely because Bretton and Caryn had clearly demonstrated through the documentary evidence in seeking Summary Judgment that the exact terms of the unilateral offer were complied with, including providing the affidavits described by the offer.

In responding to Plaintiff’s new focus in the appeal on the lack of authority arguments, Bretton and Caryn first emphasized that a binding pre-suit settlement was reached the moment Plaintiff made a unilateral offer which was accepted by the defense on the exact same terms, and even fully performed. The appellate team, assisted in supporting such arguments in the briefing which included a line of research regarding principles of implied ratification by silence, waiver and estoppel. Bretton and Caryn also emphasized that Plaintiff never argued that she did not give her attorney authority to make the settlement offer; rather, she only argued that she did not give him authority to make the offer absent the additional terms. Bretton and Caryn argued that the evidence conclusively established as a matter of law that a binding, enforceable pre-suit settlement was reached and that the appellate court should reject outright Plaintiff’s supposed lack of authority arguments. The Appellate Court agreed and issued their decision affirming the defense Summary Judgment.



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